For the past 15 years I have more or less followed a Buddhist mindset. But for most of this time I've kept that fact pretty much to myself. I do this because of the heavy influence the Evangelical Christian community has on my family and friends. So instead of enduring the constant bickering about silly religious dogma, I decided to keep my mental condition and my ongoing therapies to myself.
After my initial diagnosis in 1999, I began searching for something more tangible and more relatable to help with my situation. My therapist introduced me to form of meditation therapy whereby I took moments out of my day to clear my mind through breathing. It helped me cope with the torturous noise that was going on in my head. So for the next few years I participated in one on one and group therapies, as well as, utilizing medication and meditative therapy.
Over the next several years I functioned well enough in society. Working and participating in family functions. But still there was a lingering emptiness, plus the negative voices within my head had never really calmed down. Affecting not only my work life, but my social and family life. Into 2005 I was still dealing with bouts of depression and low self-esteem. So I once again began searching for a more definitive answer.
As far back as 1999 I learned that trying “to praying through it” or “to have some booger cast out of me” wasn’t going to cut it. That initial breakdown, frankly broke me. I heard no voice of reason. No reassuring words of peace. All I could hear was the silent screams of my own fear. So I stopped looking for any religious escape. What I have learned are that most religious ideas are still rooted in some archaic system of “righteous perfection”. My wife whose beliefs are still firmly rooted in Evangelical Christian dogma, often refers to me as “The Heathen”. Yet we’ve learned to agree to disagree, tolerating each other’s beliefs.
I always knew within myself there was the potential to do better. Yet my unrelenting self-doubt and self-hatred kept me from pursuing my dream of a better life. So with the help of counseling I dove head long back into my University studies. But as often the case my self-hatred pushed me into bouts of panic and self-loathing. Desperate for an answer, I turned to whatever self-help materials I could find. It was during this period that I discovered the works of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh.
Through Thich's gentle voice and common-sense writings, I learned how to listen to the voices (emotions) within me. To not judge them and to love that broken child within me. I also learned through mindfulness how to live in the present moment. To forgive the past and to not fear the future. So over the last several years, mindfulness has opened my eyes to peace and acceptance. To have some compassion for myself and from there learn how to forgive.
I don’t mean to bore you with my mixed-up theology. But for a really long time I’ve kept this path mostly to myself. I don’t mean to stump on anyone else’s road to redemption. We must each choose our own way. But to force feed one’s beliefs to other or to condemn another for believing differently, if at all, isn’t right. The idea of it even goes against most religion’s freedom of choice. My path is a quite path that only asks that I walk in peace and awareness. So now that you know, I go in peace.